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Conversations within the sport of sailing - Terry Hutchinson
It is often said how sailing is unique as a sport, where the opportunity is readiliy available to compete against the very best in the sport. Occassionally we get the chance to chat with them too.
(April 16, 2009) The Audi MedCup Circuit in Europe has become the elite professional sailing series, with big budget teams competing in highly refined TP52s. In 2008, American Terry Hutchinson quarterbacked a brand new team to victory, with this accomplishment leading to him earning the U.S. Rolex Yachtsman of the Year award. Terry is bringing his team, Quantum Racing, back for the 2009 MedCup series, and provides Scuttlebutt with an update on their preparation:
What is your training schedule leading up to the first event, the City of Alicante Trophy, on May 12th?
I am currently in Valencia, Spain getting ready to sail; Friday (April 17th) will be our first day. With the changes to the inside of the yacht, the first two days is about going through the process of sea trialing the boat, testing systems, and making sure everything is going to work. On Monday the 20th of April, we begin a four day training session with the Desafio Espanol and will train as a full team. This will be much about setting the template for the rest of the year and checking out the new sails. On May 7th we will start a 5 day training session prior to the first regatta with Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) and other teams that want to join.
What changes have been made to the 2009 MedCup series (compared to 2008)?
There are a few changes. One less regatta in the schedule and 7 fewer sail buttons available. This makes managing the sail card over the season very tricky. Within the sails you are allowed to carry over 3 sails to grandfather making the total of 21 sails for 50 races. The reality is that it is not a lot so managing the sail aspect of program is incredibly important. One less regatta is a good feature for the series. There is an event a month starting in May and ending in September. There is good time between regattas to make sure all necessary repairs and maintenance can be done to the boats. Again there is a high premium on no breakages. Cannot lose any races to gear failures.
In the 2008 MedCup, you brought together a boat-mast-sail-crew package that was not a proven commodity, and worked really hard to develop it. What changes to this package have you made for 2009?
Not a lot relatively speaking. When we finished the season we reviewed all the information about the boat and were advised by our designer Botin Carkeek (BC) that a new keel and bulb could potentially benefit the boat to the tune of about a second a mile in 16 knots and about three tenths in the lighter conditions. We chose not to do the modification as it seemed not a lot of bang for the amount of investment.
Instead, we continued to focus on the small things with working on the internal structure of the boat, deck layout, and fine tuning other systems. As the new boats are coming out, we are starting to see the fleet gravitate towards the Quantum Racing design. Other then the Emirates Team New Zealand (ETNZ) boat (a 2009 Botin Carkeek design), I think the changes are subtle and really it is up to us onboard to continually improve our gear.
The ETNZ boat is going for stability through hull form. While it comes from the same design office as Quantum Racing, it also has the influence of the ETNZ design team so it will be interesting to see how they go. Looking at pictures it appears to be a much bigger boat on the deck. Probably slightly narrower on the water line but heeled it will have a powerful hull.
Our only crew change is the addition of Dave Tank in replacement of Jeremy Lomas on the bow. Everybody else has remained the same.
Bribon and Matador finished second and third in the 2008 MedCup, and both were 2007 boats that were reconfigured for 2008. Could you learn anything from how they approached their second season that you will use for your program?
For sure there is a lot to learn. It is interesting that when you compare Bribon and Matador, both had different seasons. Bribon started strong, was always there, won the fifth regatta of the year in Carthagena and really only struggled in Cagliari (third event) and Breitling (fourth event). But they were always there, chipping away, and so for us it is good to remember that it is still sailboat racing and in order to be successful we have to do all the little things well.
I know one advantage this year is the fact that we have a 14 month head start against the new boats. There is a learning curve with these boats and for the Quantum Racing the goal is the same continual improvement through the season and get to the end with an opportunity to win the season championship.
Matador was second in the last three events of the year but had a disappointing event in Alicante (first event) and was hit in Marseille (second event). The lesson for us in there this season is that we need to avoid the big ones. Take transoms when necessary and minimize risk. For us nothing has changed it is about always improving the entire program.
What did your boat designer, Botin Carkeek, learn from 2008 and apply to the new Emirates Team New Zealand's design?
I am not sure as the ETNZ boat is quite a variation in hull shape then the Quantum Racing. I think the ETNZ hull shape is very big and powerful. They will address the associated drag penalty with lower drag appendages and a narrower water line beam then the Quantum Racing. We were told by BC that nothing done to the ETNZ hull shape applies to Quantum Racing and so to not do any modifications to our boat. I would expect that up range the bigger hull will create more formed stability potentially allowing for a performance gain. This assumes the boat overcomes the deficit of its hull drag so really that is the question. Either way BC will learn something.
The 2009 MedCup series is a five event circuit, where as the 2008 series had six events. How will the schedule change affect your prep/training, logistics, etc.?
We are sticking to a very similar plan to last year. We have taken one day of training out so we will train 4 days prior to an event instead of 5. But, it did not feel like things were broken so we were not going to reinvent the wheel. With all of it, it is a matter of being consistent and practicing like we race. Our goals have slightly shifted in that last year we had a big push to solidify Quantum’s technology and develop a base. I think we proved beyond any doubt that the sails are competitive and equal to that of any other supplier in performance. 2008 showed that it is about the people using the equipment being supplied and not about a supplier being anything more than just that a supplier.
2009 is about continuing to refine Quantum’s design tools and finding weaknesses to help make the Quantum product better. As a professional sailor, I am impressed by Quantum’s desire to get better and as much as anything the process is not broken so we will continue to refine and work to be better at this point working to be better is the only thing we can control.
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